Apr 1, 2014

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "The Kids Rob a Train"

Welcome to TV Recap, in which we look at modern shows and analyze them on an episode-to-episode basis. This one focuses on the cartoon sitcom Bob's Burgers, a very funny show that is capable of rivaling old school Simpsons in terms of irreverent humor and off the wall zaniness. With a cast of modern alternative comedian heroes, the story follows the Belchers as they run a burger joint. Join me as I take part in dissecting the show in its first full season. Check back on Tuesdays for the next exciting installment.

It seems like it was time once again to pit the kids in their own story. For most of the season, with limited exceptions, we have seen the Belchers working together against a cause. What makes "The Kids Rob a Train" particularly interesting is not so much their take on a great train robbery, but getting to let loose and participate in all things juvenile. It may not be the best episode in terms of growth or intriguing plot devices, but that doesn't mean that it isn't full of fun and whimsy as the kids' quest for chocolate turns into a really strange battle for their rights to be respected.
The episode begins with Bob (Jon Benjamin) telling Teddy (Larry Murphy) about their upcoming wine tasting trip aboard a train, better known as the Juice Caboose. In a related note, they are taking along the kids, even if it isn't welcomed. When they board the train, this is immediately made clear when Bob and Linda (John Roberts) are seated in their own compartment with the other adults and servant Ethan (Michael Showalter) guides them to the last caboose where they are joined by Regular Sized Rudy (Brian Huskey) and his beanbag chair. Along the way, Louise (Kristen Schaal) spots a chocolate fountain that she wants to get in on the action.
Meanwhile, Bob and Linda are joined by wine enthusiast Rick (Matt Walsh), who intimidates Bob with his countless facts and ability to notice the difference between wines. Linda is really into him as well. In fact, Bob begins to get so jealous that he challenges Rick to a wine tasting contest in which they are blindfolded and try a variety of flavors.
Meanwhile, the kids are in the back trying to figure out how to get their hands on the chocolate. Louise's first reaction is to escape via the roof. That fails when she realizes that it is too hot. Rudy decides to open up on some truths, including that Ethan shows up every hour on the hour to offer kids the juice boxes, which is their only chance of the door being open. From there, he goes to the cooking portion of the train, which only clears out if it is someone's birthday. From there, the kids can get Swedish chocolate from a German chef, provided that he is singing someone the standard train birthday song.
Louise hatches a plan. With Tina (Dan Mintz) distracting Ethan, she hides under his cart and heads towards the cooking department. Tina insists that it is Linda's birthday as well, which makes her plan more effective. The kitchen clears out and she is able to get a bag of chocolate and jump off the train. Luckily, it is moving slow enough where she can keep up with it at a slow run. She tries to throw the chocolate to Rudy, but things backfire when the weight ratio of pulling Louise through the window causes everyone to fall out.
They are stranded alongside the tracks, waiting for another plan. It comes when the train does a return trip and results in them climbing through the window. Ethan is about to make his rounds yet again and they need to hide the chocolate. Luckily, they do it in time, though Ethan is now curious to where it went. He checks everywhere and leaves defeated. It turns out to be on the roof, where it pours down on the kids like a fountain.
Meanwhile, Bob and Linda are getting hostile with Rick. A "special" wine is offered that Bob immediately recognizes. Rick spends forever trying to figure it out. He is made the fool when he discovers that it is actually from the spit bucket, which causes everyone to throw wine on each other. When the train reaches its final stage, everyone gets off, covered in chocolate or wine. Ethan is yelling from the train as it is pulling away while the Belchers walk away in happiness.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I understand that there needed to be two plots in order for this story to work, but of the two, Bob and Linda's (A) didn't quite work. In fact, it felt like a placement holder for the kid's (B) to happen. I found the B plot to be far more fascinating and clever. I like how there were elements of train heists mixed into the episode with Regular Sized Rudy managing to be the wise man who knew all about the train's mechanics. Even if it is sad that he is somehow well known on that train, specifically for being that kid with the beanbag chair, there was plenty of kids being kids in the episode that was rather enduring.
Maybe I am unfamiliar with how train rides last, but the strangest element remains the fact that the train was moving very slowly. Maybe it was to enhance or elongate the experience, but it was one of the strange smaller features. It benefited the story in several ways, but resulted in some disbelief. A strange nitpick for a show that isn't necessarily far fetched in its realm of logic. It allowed a lot of exterior things to happen, which is where I'll forgive any inaccuracies.
In fact, it is hard to really compare this episode to the last few because I don't really recognize any character growth in clever ways. This is more of a "fun" one in which the mechanics cleverly build to an alternative model of a chocolate fountain. It has a simple task and it pays off nicely. In this regards, the episode is rather successful in becoming a kid's quest for fun. The only thing is that I am averse to seeing people covered in chocolate. It kind of grosses me out. It was kind of creepy to watch, no matter how glorious it was intended to be.
There isn't much really to dissect other than I enjoy when the kids get to have their own journeys like this. When left to their own devices, they end up having a lot of fun defying official figures. Ethan is strangely effective, if overall harmless. I feel like the strength of the episode is the vague yet intriguing characters that make up the staff of the train ride. They don't necessarily get to be more than cooks and servants, which helps them to seem like people more annoyed at these outbursts than actual villains. Kids will be menaces no matter what, and here they prove just how clever they really are by defying them in grand, grand manners. 
I feel strange because I do feel like the parental stories have been the weaker spots of the season so far. They mostly go to places and end up having to fight for their respect. Last week saw them fight fellow burger enthusiasts over misunderstood comments. Here, they fight a wine taster who may be a little too snooty. I don't hate the stories, but compared to the kids, they often feel tame and predictable. I get that there is a need for each group to develop separately, but sometimes it does get monotonous. It doesn't mean that the show is getting boring or predictable, but it does have a sense of need  to change it up.
Overall, the season has been a little strange for me. It has been as good as it ever has, but I don't recall as many great moments. Even this episode, which has a lot of charm, doesn't match up to the lesser episodes of last season. I kind of want more from the show and I am not sure what. It has shown some spurts of creativity this season, but there hasn't been any talking toilet or mechanical shark to compare to the brilliance that was last season. The kids' portion of this episode maybe rivals the lesser, but I do feel like the parents need better plots.

1 comment:

  1. very impressive article and sounds like an articulate one. thanks for this post.